This qualitative study examined the experiences of eleven multilingual professional women between the ages of 35 and 65 who share the following characteristics: Spanish is their first language; they speak English with an accent and migrated to the United States as adults and are required to engage in public speaking in their professional leadership careers in the United States. The study’s interview process provided participants with a platform to share their voices and stories. The findings discussed how their accents have shaped their leadership careers as well as the social-emotional aspect of their lives through a phenomenological approach.

The emergent themes offered insights about how accent is intrinsically connected to identity and is confronted by bias and microaggressions and how these have affected their professional careers. In addition, the data collected allowed for an analysis of how they feel native speakers of English perceive their capabilities and intelligence based on their accents and depending on the type of receptors, or listeners, the native speakers are. Lastly, a theme about the social-emotional impact presents how their experiences affect their confidence in public speaking. Since the United States continues to open doors to millions of immigrants who make this country their permanent residence for living and working, it is beneficial to understand that they must become English language learners and will speak English with a noticeable foreign accent. In conclusion, the participants’ stories inform how to better create safe, welcoming, and non-racist environments within the educational field, workplaces, and communities in the United States in which all can coexist harmoniously. The knowledge gained potentially eliminates unnecessary harm and biases in these spaces, co-constructing inclusively diverse and culturally competent.


Beatriz Desantiago-Fjelstad

Committee Member

Michael Walker

Committee Member

Randy Haley

Committee Member

Bernadeia Johnson

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)

Program of Study

Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership





Rights Statement

In Copyright